labor

Schlegel Capitalism: E. M. Forster and the Cultural Form of Modernist Adventure

Margaret’s plea to her somewhat work-phobic younger brother might sound a little odd, since she does not—work, that is. Instead, as she enigmatically puts it in the preceding line, she “pretends” to work, engaging in a host of cultural activities with an energy redolent of work, perhaps, but with few of its economic imperatives. What this strange formulation pretending to work might mean in the context of E. M. Forster’s 1910 novel—indeed, in the context of 1910 more broadly—is one way to frame the question posed by this essay.

She Works Too Hard for the Money

Shortly after starting as an executive assistant in development at a nonprofit organization in 2012—my first nonacademic job following a three-year postdoctoral position—I joked to my new boss one night after everyone else had gone home that she should only hire former academics because we have no idea how not to work all the time. She laughed, as I guessed she would. Ever the court jester, I like to think I know my audience and I knew that, while not an academic herself, she could relate. We were there working late together and, from the start, I found that I could identify with the way she identified with her work.

“Copied Out Big”: Instruction in Joyce’s Ulysses

The narrator of Joyce’s “Ithaca” renders Molly Bloom’s experience of “direct instruction” (Ulysses, 562). From the perspective of her teacher, who is interested in outcomes, this experience is not a success. Molly’s insouciance and inconsistency, as recorded in the sentence above, lead the self-appointed pedagogue Leopold Bloom to adopt a “more effective” and modern approach: “[i]ndirect suggestion implicating selfinterest” (563). Joyce’s language suggests here, however, that the “direct” method proves surprisingly enabling—more so, in fact, than the updated, “implicating” alternative. The latter leads, in “Ithaca,” to an ultimately straightforward if initially perplexing consumer equation: “She disliked umbrella with rain, he liked woman with umbrella, she disliked new hat with rain, he liked woman with new hat, he bought new hat with rain, she carried umbrella with new hat” (563). Note the relative predictability of the sentence, its directness, even, “indirect suggestion” notwithstanding. It’s as if “indirect suggestion implicating self-interest” could yield only this parade of pros, cons, and commodities, this regular succession of dislikes and likes.